Car giant BMW has finally taken the wraps off the eagerly-awaited new Mini.
The latest reincarnation of the popular car which first took to the road in 1959 shows a Mini that is quieter, longer, wider and taller than its predecessor.
Shown off today at BMW's plant at Cowley in Oxford where it will be made, the new Mini will start at £15,300 and will be available in the UK in spring 2014.
BMW is pouring £750 million into Mini production in the UK - a sum welcomed today By Prime Minister David Cameron who described the Mini brand as a "classic British icon".
BMW, which has been manufacturing the Mini since 2001, today dubbed the new version "the new original" and boasted that the new car was " more spacious than before, safer, finished to an even higher standard and provides the driver with a more dynamic and performance-oriented experience behind the wheel".
The car, unveiled before guests including Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin will start being manufactured this week at Oxford ahead of its going on sale in a few months time.
Mr Cameron said today: "I was lucky enough to get an early preview of the new Mini - a classic British icon - during a visit to the factory in Oxford last month. This £750 million investment is great news for both the local and wider economy, along with the 5,500 workers whose jobs are safeguarded by this launch.
"Car manufacturing is a vital engine for growth. Production is back up to pre-recession levels and a car rolls off the line every 20 seconds in the UK. But we're not complacent. Our industrial strategy is a key part of the Government's economic plan and we're helping to drive the car industry further and faster with over £4bn of investment."
Harald Krueger, BMW Group's board member for production, said: "In our Oxford plant's centenary year, we are continuing the Mini brand success story and today starting production of the third model generation. Our total investment of £750 million in our British production locations of Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall between 2012 and 2015 underscores the importance of the Mini production triangle within our global production network. The UK is the heart of Mini production - thanks to the experience, competence and strong commitment of all our employees."
Speaking at the unveiling amid razzmatazz and music, Mr McLoughlin said: "Today is proof of the remarkable renaissance of Mini under BMW. The new Mini will set high quality standards. I am proud of the part the UK workforce has played."
There will be three versions of the new car when it becomes available in spring next year - the "basic" Mini Cooper, the diesel-engined Mini Cooper D and the Mini Cooper S.
Today's unveiling in front of hundreds of media representative and guests, including many who had flown from Germany, came on the 107th anniversary of the birth of the original Mini's designer Sir Alec Issigonis.
More than 5.3 million Minis were produced before BMW started making its own bigger and more-powerful version in 2001.
The unveiling has come as the Oxford plant, originally called Cowley, celebrates 100 years of car-making. The first vehicle, a Bullnose Morris Oxford, was produced on March 28 1913.
The plant has produced more than 11.65 million vehicles, including more than 2.2 million of the BMW Minis. Other great motoring marques that have rolled off the Oxford production lines include Austin Healey, MG, Wolseley, Riley, Austin, Triumph and, Rover.